Why Was This Attachment Parenting Article Banned?

Social movements, like nature itself, tend to develop in pairs, struggling against one another for dominance and definition. Viewed another way, social movements from the past contend with the forces for change. They rise and fall, trading places. They make headway, achieve some normalcy, and then they backslide for a while until the issue is renewed on a higher level. Often, social movements crisscross with other social movements, sometimes making strange temporary alliances. Interestingly, the recent leadership of the Attachment Parenting Organization represents a corrective movement, even if they appear extreme to onlookers. Indulge me, if you will, while I retrace our steps to make my point as clear as possible, even if I have to take you out of the way. You cannot truly understand anything without understanding its history.  

First, allow me to present a brief lesson in economic theory to set the stage. Generally speaking, every economic system has a religious or philosophical system to validate it. The oldest and most primitive economic system has been communalism, which is predictably supported by a reverence or worship of nature. The Slavery Stage tends to follow Communalism, with the discovery of property and its accompanying privileges. This stage is commonly supported either by beliefs in gods that are human or half human or myths about the animal like, inferior nature of other humans, to establish superiority for the extremely entitled. Slavery is a cumbersome plan that usually requires almost as many guards as slaves, and uprisings are inevitable. The Feudal system tends to promote an acceptance of ones station in life without chains, whips and guards. It’s much more economical and efficient than slavery. Feudalism may indoctrinate its people with promises of a glorious afterlife, if they don’t make waves, lest they suffer in the afterlife or their next life. Following feudalism usually there is the development of industry by virtue of competition, which is not a static system at all, but one that honors a work ethic and rivalry. “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.” Possibly you recognize the Protestant ethic of Capitalism, which bestows virtue upon those who work hard and succeed through competition with others.  

            In the second millennium two economic systems of diverse ideology actually cooperated. The indigenous population of peasants still lived in a communal social system. They shared their labor and the rewards they reaped amongst themselves. Their leaders were often women, who were the civilizers, storytellers and educators, and the men hunted and worked the fields for the most part. Patriarchy had not yet developed, as there was nothing to bequeath and no need to identify heirs. 

While highly influenced by the Slavery Stage of the Middle East, Europe did not enter its own Slavery Stage. There was no need. European peasants were happy to serve the nobility in exchange for living within the castle walls for protection. They farmed the manors and provided produce and medical care. Their shamans were predominantly women and gay men. They had developed highly sophisticated insight into healing arts, including a body of knowledge about the healing properties of herbs, as well as the anatomy of humans. They lived comfortably with the nobility of European feudalism, as the nobility actually regarded these healers and depended upon them shamelessly.

            The Roman Empire extended northward, setting up churches throughout the heathen communities, establishing a religion that strategically mirrored the aristocracy. Their pope dressed like kings, and cathedrals looked like palaces. Bishops became the counterpart for lords. Priests swore their loyalty to the pope and God, like knights committed to their King or Queen. They presented the philosophy, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” and “Some are born to rule and others to be ruled.”

The new hierarchy was a patriarchy. At some point the feudal religion of Rome began to contend with the religious values and practices of the peasants. The Catholic Church was jealous of the authority held by the wildcraft practitioners and determined that these regarded women had to be demoted. Roman Catholic priests planned and implemented the Inquisition. They were determined to devalue and dispense with these women who they began to call witches. Some historians say that as many as 13 million women were tortured and murdered by the Roman Catholic. Hundreds of years later, my mother, a Southern woman, told me of a limerick handed down from her mother, “A whistling woman and a crowing hen will always come to some bad end.” Another one, “A whistling woman and a crowing hen will always come to the devil’s end.” The coded message between peasants was, learn your place, if you want to live.

Ironically, the feudal Catholic Church actually helped pave the way for capitalism and, therefore, Protestantism. As the indigenous peasant population was torn asunder, many men fled to the cities where they sought work and apprenticeships, while the male dominated medical enterprise was born to fill the void in healthcare. With the birth of industrialization and free enterprise, John Locke outlined a Protestant work ethic for the 17th Century. He wrote that orphaned children above the age of three should be put to work to earn their keep.

As Europe’s healers were wiped out and driven underground, a new breed of medicine took its place. Without generations upon generations of lessons drawn from the fruits of the earth and the study of the dying and the dead, men, rather suddenly, took the role of doctors. Their first agenda was to establish authority. They deliberately created a vocabulary that the lay population could not understand. They began to establish medical tenants and to write their treatise on medicine, often inventing superstitious protocols for treating popular ailments. They practiced bloodletting and other superstitious or barbaric practices.

In accord with the medical model–that the key to treatment is the elimination of physical symptoms–psychological problems were presumed to be medical, as well. They began to treat the mentally ill with torture and intimidation. Surgeries were invented to address psychological issues, such as cauterizing the nose of women who masturbated. Clitorectomies were also instituted to dissuade women from seeking divorce. Arrogant doctors treated their patients like bad children who had to be disciplined and taught who was the boss. If someone acted out, they were restrained, tortured by ice water or violently swung in a wooden apparatus and frightened into submissive behavior, thus reducing symptoms. The theory then and now: If symptoms can be removed, a cure has taken place.

Following the advent of the medical model, theories of genetic inferiority sprang up throughout European cultures. Africans, Jews, women, gays and the mentally ill were held to be genetically inferior. Ignorance was not thought to result from poor education and impoverished environments, but rather was held to be the result of innate inferiority. Researchers actually fabricated studies to “prove” that blacks and poor whites were intellectually inferior at birth by rigging numbers and by citing similar traits in relatives as proof of bad genes. It was the medical model of psychology that disregarded the role of the home and social environments in the creation of behaviors. These barbarous theories led to the extermination of more than five million Jews and 400,000 of the insane, sterilizing another quarter of a million of the mentally ill before and during World War II. 

Some great theories developed in Europe before the rise of Hitler. Sigmund Freud discovered that women with hysterical symptoms reported incest. When Freud presented this information to his peers he was rejected until he revised his thinking and got his mind right. Succumbing to the pressure, Freud formulated the Internal Drive Theory to explain symptoms that he formerly believed resulted from childhood trauma. Amid the mix of a patriarchal economy and a eugenics movement, there also existed a contentious defense of parents, all parents, against complaining children. There sprung up Behavioral Psychology, spearheaded by John Watson and B. F. Skinner. Watson became a parenting instructor who later influenced Dr. Spock, teaching parents not to overindulge their children. Ironically, it was the behaviorists who asserted that children were born blank slates and could be raised to be doctors or beggars. However, they didn’t have a clue about the importance of nurturing. Eventually, the behaviorists and the Freudian analysts would both collude to protect parents from any version of psychology that would explore their childhood experiences.    

            World War II came along and patriotic women took to doing “men’s work” building airplanes, while the men were away at war. Following WWII women returned to their traditional roles in their traditional homes. Even then, however, there were no state agencies protecting children from child abuse and neglect. It wasn’t until 1963, the same year I attempted in vane to report my parents for child abuse to the local police, that child abuse became a crime. It was during this fertile time that attachment research began to surface.  

            Researchers Harry Harlow and John Bowlby produced the best research to date on the critical importance of attachment and continuity of care (care by the same primary caregiver). Harlow, in working with infant Rhesus monkeys, demonstrated that unattached monkeys became violent and mentally disturbed. Harlow’s research proved to a large extent that evolution seems to require mothering in most every species. Bowlby presented his theory on the irreducible needs of babies and small children for a secure and continuous attachment while, yet another expert, Dr. Benjamin Spock continued to promote the thinking of Behaviorist John Watson, recommending mothers not pick up their crying babies and that they bottle feed them on a strict schedule.

            Despite Spock’s popularity, Bowlby’s colleague Mary Ainsworth took up where Bowlby left off and produced some powerful research showing the different types of attachments that parents create with their children. Some children were secure; some were alternately clingy and angry (ambivalent); some became rather indifferent (avoidant); and yet others displayed bizarre symptoms of head banging, spinning, and rocking (disorganized) that became predictive of severe mental instability. Another researcher, Mary Main, proved that these childhood behaviors were predictive of adult behaviors and would foretell the attachments these grown children would create with their mate and their own children. These researchers produced enough evidence for the necessity of secure attachments, except that all social movements are met with economic counterpoints, if and when it threatens existing economic forces, such as industry and wages.  

            It would seem that the recent history of child protection has zigzagged in a complex interaction with the women’s movement that almost looks like crisscrossing shoelaces of differing motives and ideologies. As industry would do whatever it takes to keep wages down, it supported the Women’s Movement of the late 60s and early 70s, which appeared on the tail of the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-(Vietnam) War Movement, leading to two-income households. Many of our babies ended up in daycare and in no time American children began to devolve before our very eyes. Public schools became a place where children bought drugs, had more piercings, tattoos and sex, became pregnant and had more abortions, brought guns to school and became diagnosable for their displays of anxiety and depression. A new diagnosis, Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity (ADD or ADHD),  sprung up and the pharmaceutical industry began to make a killing on kids. It became politically incorrect to become a stay-at-home parent or to object to daycare. There became a resurgence of genetic explanations for behavior supported by scientists working for the pharmaceutical industry. 

            Scientists Jay Belsky and Henry Brandtjen produced research proving that daycare was bad for children, but other scientists accused Belsky of “not playing well” with others. It seemed that no one wanted to hear that the attachment between the mother and child mattered.  There followed a backlash in my field where researchers tried to prove that attachment needs were a myth. They pointed to children who handled daycare like little adults, becoming highly independent. These adaptations were thought to be positive traits and these bossy little children were characterized as leaders. In fact, they had Reactive Attachment Disorder, which creates little Mafioso-like children who will likely, without major therapy, become disinclined to ever be vulnerable again with another human being. What was developing in social movements like a pendulum now looked within the field of psychology like a war of the researchers. Just as blind as we were to the affects of daycare, these students of human behavior failed to acknowledge that one school of thought completely contradicted the other, and there was no one at the top refereeing the contest. A good therapist, it was thought, should open-mindedly believe both arguments, that daycare is bad for children and that daycare is good for children.  

            Social movements zigzag in all cultures. They have done so throughout human history. They have within them heroes and villains, many of whom are unapparent or inadvertent. All of this is to say, our children have been suffering in daycare at very young ages with social approval. You, Attachment Parents, are the progressive force pressing the pendulum back to child-centered parenting. You are the cutting edge of today, taking up the wisdom of evolution and the evolutionary role of motherhood or nurturing in childrearing. You are the visionaries, who see that we need to honor the real needs of children to safely depend upon us, until they are ready to venture away from us. You are the heroes, not only to your children, but to all children not yet born. You are my heroes too. You have created the climate that may enable the Causal Theory to take root and drive the pendulum back to motherhood. 


Two Proposals       

            I am asking that you re-consider some of your theory and practice. I know your beliefs about extended nursing are inspired by the work of the heroic pediatrician William Sears, who proposed a continuous attachment when no one else did. Nevertheless, I am proposing a few amendments to your practices as I bring new information on the art of parenting our children to become empathic and successful adults.   


Proposal One: Support Continuous Attachment and Safe Individuation

            Children have two inborn drives. The first one is to attach and the second one is to individuate under the protection of a secure attachment. The two stages overlap. The first five years should not be about preserving the breastfeeding, but it should be more about facilitating the individuation process so that security is never broken. Individuation should be initiated by the child and not thwarted by the parent.

            Attachment and breastfeeding are not parallel. Breastfeeding is a precious aspect of attachment, but it ends earlier. Attaching and nursing are evolved to take place in the first year, and weaning and individuation need to start for the securely attached child at about one year, and sometimes even earlier for a precocious child. Secure attachments may be broken during individuation by a lack of continuity in care giving, often leading to rotating caregivers. The individuation process needs to be gradual under the protection of the parent, so that individuation is never pre-mature, forced or an actual attachment break. The most important thing parents need to insure in the first five years is that the individuation process is protected by a continuous and available attachment, whether the mother is still nursing or not. I would love to see this become the goal of Attachment Parenting, to support secure attachment followed by gradual and secure individuation.

             To reiterate, the focus should not be on breastfeeding but on preserving continuity of attachment. If an attachment break is too long, then the attachment trauma is acute. One event can break the trust. If the child ceases to trust, she becomes afraid to be intimate, lest her heart be broken again. This child becomes a little toughie or a bit of wimp. If the break is chronic, the child develops an anxious personality from separation anxiety. The frequent, but shorter separations, erode her security too. Below is a recommended schedule of what children can tolerate. It is conservative, perhaps even cautious, because it is our primary attachment relationship that determines our capacity for empathy, understanding, and love. Of course, they can tolerate even less if both schedules, chronic and acute, are interrupted in the same child. 



Primary Sources of Insecure Attachment


Creating Attachment Breaks

Creating Separation Anxiety or Chronic Attachment Trauma

6 months old

6 hours*


1 year old

12 hours*

One hour, once weekly

18 months old

18 hours*

One and one-half hour, once weekly

2 years old

Two days

Two hours, twice weekly

3 years old

Three days

Three hours, three days a week

4 years old

Four days

Four hours, four days a week

5 years old

Five days

Five hours, five days a week (kindergarten)

6 years old

One week

Same as above. Everybody needs to go home at the end of the day.

7 years old

Two weeks

Same as above. Every child needs to go home to family at the end of the day.

8 years old

One month

Same as above.

9 years old

One summer

Same as above.

* Awake hours, during the day.


            When a child shows any indifference to nursing, then Mom ideally would not push it. Mom needs to have a consciousness that facilitates individuation as well as attachment. When a child seeks to individuate in any way and is expected instead to remain a baby, they get the message they are not expected to grow up, even if their body does. Of course, we all know stories of cultures where children were nursed until they were five years old. These are not models of evolution. They are models of nurturing children in harsh environments that don’t provide chewable and nurturing foods for toddlers. When nursing is extended by necessity, there follows ruthless rites of passage to rip the boy child from his mother, lest he become soft.

            A healthy individuation is not forced either. A young child should not be asked to individuate more than they seem able. Individuation is a longer process than attachment. It even takes a lifetime. Children who have been prematurely separated need longer periods of attachment and may never become fully individuated.

            I continue to love when mothers and dads “wear” their baby in the first year and even to age two if they enjoy it. Carrying your older child now and then on an outing is special, especially the times your child gets to sit upon his daddy’s shoulders. Beyond that, if your child is securely attached, too much carrying may deny her drive for autonomy.

            The family bed is more important for children whose mother works and they don’t see their child enough. If you are a stay at home mom your child is well bonded and is ready to begin practicing autonomy at the end of the first year and may actually take to her own bed in her own bedroom.  It is also reasonable to put a securely attached infant into a cradle and then a crib from birth, as long as her days are secure.

            Nursing beyond the age of one is important for mothers who work or who had an attachment break with their child in the first year. Continued nursing of a securely attached child may not have a negative effect in the second or even third year unless mothers fail to establish a high bar for their child. Children need their parents to set reasonably high expectations. They need to learn personal discipline, restraint, and deferred gratification. They need to learn ethics. They also need to explore and take initiative. They also need to learn to follow as well as to lead, and especially they need to learn relationship skills. Arrogance and entitlement are forbidden. Continued nursing, if necessary, should then be limited to intimate moments like bedtime. It should not be a meal supplement. Children get little teeth at about one year, because it is time to learn to eat food.



Proposal Two: Introduce Sufficient Discipline and Ethics


            Discipline is complicated and it is an art.  Let me ask you this:

            Does your child seem immature? Does your child seem whiny or weak? Does your child whine when you don’t do things for him? Does your child throw a tantrum when something is too hard?         

            On the other hand, does your child treat you like an equal? Does your child seem bossy toward adults? Does your child abuse you, others and other children? Is your child rude and arrogant? Does your child disrespect you? Is it getting harder and harder to discipline your child? Does your child seem to lack ethics, empathy and self-discipline?

            Two issues are operating here. The first is that when you nurse too long, your child becomes infantilized and immature. They may even develop a personality that wants help for every challenge or uncomfortable feeling. They make become rather lack luster, because they have little ambition or drive to succeed, as everything has been done for them in their early childhood.

            The other issue is that if you over nurture or coddle your child and are thus a weak disciplinarian, failing to set boundaries and limits, as well as failing to follow through consistently, you will create a child who disrespects you and others, while daring you to stop her and set limits.

            How and when to discipline is fully covered in my book, along with every other parenting issue you can imagine. If you don’t get my book then you can learn everything you need to know about discipline by watching Supernanny religiously. It is crucial to study the nuances of Jo Frost’s discipline techniques. Her modeling is impeccable, but I notice that most parents watch once or twice, think they’ve got it and then complain it doesn’t work.  If you are not getting amazing results, then watch some more.




            It is such an honor to be recognized by Attachment Parenting. I hope my recommendations make sense and you are clear how deeply I appreciate this movement and especially you.